Sep 30 2021, by Fleetwood Urban

Central Coast meets Central Europe at Tuggerah Lake

How a visit to the south of Germany inspired two elegant community bridges along the Tuggerah Lake Cycleway.

It may be just an hour north of Sydney. But riding along sections of the scenic Tuggerah Lake Cycleway on the NSW Central Coast, you could be forgiven for thinking you were traversing the meandering rivers and villages of Central Europe.

As it turns out, this is no coincidence. The designs for two of the 12km cycleway’s most popular bridge crossings – Tumbi Creek and Saltwater Creek – were inspired by a visit to southern Germany just over 10 years ago.

“It’s true,” says Fleetwood Director Ian Joyce. “The design of the Tumbi Creek bridge came about from a fact-finding trip to Europe back in 2011. Roger (Joyce) and I were attending a trade show in Munich and we passed through a beautiful little town called Schwäbisch Hall, which had the best arched pedestrian bridge we had ever seen. We just knew it was exactly the type of low-profile structure that would be perfectly suited here in Australia.” 

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Saltwater Creek Cycleway

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Tumbi Creek Cycleway

Same, but different.

Ian and Roger quickly made some enquiries and arranged to visit the bridge manufacturer on the same trip. “We had some great conversations about their design approach,” remembers Ian. “We knew the bridge would need some modifications for Australian conditions, especially the materials, but the clean and elegant form was just perfect. On returning home, we got to work running some tests and making the necessary changes. The result was our Stirling™ bridge system.”

In the decade since then, Fleetwood has successfully delivered more than 20 Stirling™ bridges in communities around Australia. One of the more substantial projects came in 2014 when Wyong Shire Council (now Central Coast Council) was looking to replace an ageing pedestrian bridge along the Tuggerah Lake foreshore.

“The old timber footbridge at Tumbi Creek had seen better days and was actually quite dangerous,” says Ian Joyce. “Council wanted a cost efficient and attractive replacement that was also sensitive to the local habitat around Tuggerah Lake. Given the substantial structure required to span Tumbi Creek – 50 metres long, 3.5 metres wide – a cable-stayed bridge like Stirling™ was the obvious solution and the whole project came together pretty seamlessly. The structural components were all fabricated off-site in our Sydney factory, before the bridge was assembled in just 24 hours using a 250-tonne crane.”

Graceful and understated, the community loved the European-inspired form of the new Tumbi Creek bridge. So, when the time came to deliver a second bridge along the Tuggerah Lake foreshore in 2017 – this time amongst the mangroves at Saltwater Creek between Killarney Vale and Long Jetty – Wyong Shire Council once again turned to Fleetwood.

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Tumbi Creek Stirling™ Bridge
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Creative engineering.

“The residents around Saltwater Creek really liked the simplicity and elegance of the Tumbi Creek bridge,” says Ian Joyce. “However, feedback from Council was for the second structure to have an even lower profile to help preserve the local views across the lake. Specifically, we needed to deliver a similar form to Tumbi Creek, but without the support towers at each end of the span. Achieving that required some creative engineering!”

Two construction options were explored, each including full 3D product drawings. The chosen solution saw Fleetwood’s design team replace the Stirling™ cable towers with an all-new support structure concealed underneath the bridge.

“Using a curved superstructure meant we were able to reduce the clear span,” says Ian. “This, in turn, allowed us to significantly reduce the size of the main beams while still providing the necessary high clearance over Saltwater Creek. It was a great success for the local community, the Council and, of course, for us too. Everyone was very happy with the end result.”

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Saltwater Creek Stirling™ Bridge
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Standing the test of time.

Several years on, both bridges have settled beautifully into their natural surroundings at Tuggerah Lake. Much-loved pieces of community infrastructure, and essential access links, they’re used by thousands of pedestrians and cyclists every day – something they’ll continue to do for many decades to come.

And to think, they both began with a visit to a quaint German village over 10 years ago. Wunderbar!

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